Last week we released an article, Called to be a Praying People, penned by Billy Glosson. Billy did a tremendous job in vision-casting both grit and guidance in the realm of our personal prayer life. Check it out if you haven’t yet. Now, though, I want us to consider prayer together as a people. A group. A church.
When it comes to prayer, people tend to drift towards seclusion and isolation, as if God dislikes a crowd. To be fair, we do see Christ both embrace and encourage solitude for the purpose of prayer on multiple occasions (Matthew 6:6, Matthew 26:36, Luke 6:12). However, we don’t see Christ discouraging or forbidding corporate prayer. In fact, in Scripture I think we see a strong push towards joining together to cry out to the Lord. This should in no way replace private prayer, but rather supplement it.
I want to give a few thoughts on why we should take part in corporate prayer. Take a couple of minutes and ponder the following.
This past summer we finished up our sermon series on the book of Exodus, which proved to be of great value to me. One text that has stood out to this day is what we read at the end of Chapter 2:
During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. - Exodus 2:23-25
Early in the Exodus narrative, Israel was enslaved in Egypt. Over time their situation progressively deteriorated. The people of Israel join together and cry out to God in prayer. What we see unfold in the rest of the book of Exodus is, in short, God answering that prayer. The voices of the people crying out in unison amplified their prayer to God. Praying together magnified their prayer.
Now, I am not suggesting that God is hard of hearing; however, God delights in the prayers of His people – and hearing his people cry out in unison only sweetens the sound. A violin solo can undeniably warm the heart, but think of the majesty and grandeur of an orchestra in full bloom.
There seems to be an undeniable power found in amplified prayer. The influential Charles Spurgeon pointed to the power of prayer for the many powerful works done through his ministry. He would have hundreds of people praying, before and during his messages, that God would change hearts. He called this the “boiler room” or “furnace room.”
God certainly answers solitary prayers. That is undoubtedly true. But we do see a certain power to corporate prayer – a heaviness that is amplified by voices of the many. As a reminder, in Karis, we have seen this firsthand as God blessed our prayers last summer with Westside – there is power in corporate prayer!
Last week Billy zoomed in on Acts 4. Peter and John had been arrested for proclaiming Christ. After being released and warned about sharing Christ, they returned to the early church to pray. During their time of prayer, the ground quaked and the Holy Spirit filled them all.
Immediately following this time of prayer, we see the ultimate picture of community. All the people were coming together, selling their belongings and giving to those in need. The church was unified by the power of the Holy Spirit blessing their corporate prayers. It is as if a certain momentum was born from corporate prayer, unifying the church and resulting in an unparalleled picture of biblical community. This is a pattern we see continue throughout the book of Acts.
My high school science teacher repeatedly warned us, “Don’t mess with trains.” Not that any of us had any inclination to mess with trains, whatever that means. This warning always seemed to come out of nowhere, but would always be followed by the explanation of the concept of inertia. In a nutshell, due to their enormous mass, trains don’t give. Hence, don’t mess with trains.
Maybe it was overly obvious, but good advice nonetheless. As we read in Acts 4, corporate prayer unifies the church to do mighty things. It empowers them to make sacrifices for one other, even if that means selling their belongings or their homes. Friends, corporate prayer can unify a church in a way that develops an immeasurable power like we see in Acts 4.
God wants to use us to do great things, and a great place to start is in prayer together. Corporate prayer can and will breed a certain spiritual momentum or inertia that will in essence deny Satan the opportunity to mess with the church.
Prayer is a humbling venture. Often, prayer is intimidating and daunting simply because we don’t know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes, though, God uses others to say it for us. Part of living life together is praying together - with our families, our friends, our missional communities, and our church body.
Corporate prayer has time and again been a sanctifying experience for me. In fact, one of the very reasons that I am writing this today, why I even care about prayer, is because some 6+ years ago a group of committed believers prayed for me when I didn’t have a clue about who Christ was.
That was the beginning of my sanctification process – and corporate prayer has not ceased to be a part since. Here and now I gather with a handful of others to pray weekly as part of the Karis morning prayer groups. It is hands down one of the most uplifting points of my week. God sanctifies me through the Holy Spirit via the prayers of my brothers and sisters. I encourage you to join me in this.
Corporate prayer is ultimately a snapshot of victory over sin – former enslaved, mortal enemies of the King of Ages saved and converted into eternal sons and daughters gathering round to celebrate freedom and bask in forgiveness. At the same time, though, that fight is still being fought. We often taste the bitterness of defeat, yet we pray precisely because we have tasted that victory over sin, clinging to our only hope. Friends, let us come together and pray as a people, desperate for the work of the Holy Spirit.
This post was written by Derek Zimmermann. Derek serves as lay elder in Karis Church, overseeing biblical counseling in the church. Derek and his wife, Charlee, enjoy parenting their twin girls, Zoe and Naomi.